Procter & Gamble: Covering the Basics

Multicultural Marketing's Best Practice

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Pepper Miller Pepper Miller
Last week I asked fellow blogger Gene Morris to fill in as a participant on a multicultural panel that I was moderating for Strategic Research Institute's Multicultural Conference. During the presentation, Gene brought up a very significant point -- the simplicity and importance of using basic Marketing 101 practices for targeting African Americans. When I think of companies that embrace multicultural marketing, the one's that really get it, Procter, with an "E" for excellence, Gamble is my best practice.
  • First, P&G's overall philosophy toward multicultural marketing is that it is key to their business success. Multicultural marketing is not viewed as charity, nor is it used as a disingenuous expression during Black History Month. It is an important driver for maintaining current and attracting new business. This approach to multicultural marketing reminds me of a story I heard about the Brooklyn Dodgers when they signed Jackie Robinson. It was a tough time back then for a Black ballplayer. But the Dodgers weren't trying to advance the cause of civil rights. They signed Robinson because they wanted to win. P&G embraces multicultural marketing because they, like the Dodgers, want to win!

  • Second, the success of multicultural marketing, like any marketing effort, must have senior management buy-in along with the company's commitment to the plan. P&G's senior managers not only sanction multicultural marketing, but are actively engaged and involved in the process.

  • Another characteristic of P&G's best-practice approach is the inclusion of ethnic agency business partners in their marketing strategy discussions early and often, thus recognizing the agencies as full partners during the process. "Partner" is the key word here. It is not used at P&G frivolously or superficially. An unfortunate practice among many marketers who contract with both ethnic and general-market agencies is that they strategize with the general-market agency first, and then bring the ethnic agency in for its "assignment." Not only does this process alienate the ethnic agency, but too often the direction for the ethnic agency is expected to mirror the general market's efforts. This divisive practice prevents the strategy from being relevant to the ethnic segment. P&G understands that including both agencies in the planning process simultaneously creates an effective "adaptation of the strategy" for the ethnic audience.

  • Additionally, P&G invests in relevant research, has a number of ethnic female upper level managers, is listed as one of Essence Magazine's top 50 companies for Black women (nominated by yours truly) and is the first major corporation to tell the Black woman's beauty story via its new program,
To be fair, P&G is not perfect, nor is everyone in agreement with me. I mentioned P&G and referenced its very effective "Tide with Downy" African-American targeted TV spot in my first blog "They Speak English Don't They." I received comments to my personal e-mail account instead of this blog, and one stood out. High Jive, an anonymous multicultural marketing watcher of sorts, is neither a P&G "hater" nor a fan. However, the writer had this to say about P&G's practices with one of its Black agencies: "P&G certainly dedicates above-average support for minority marketing. But they still leave a lot to be desired. For example, a few years ago, P&G awarded Pantene business to Carol H. Williams' agency. Yet the commercials introducing Pantene's 'Black' hair care products were produced by the mass-market agency (although they may have permitted CHW to "consult" on some levels). Not sure if the situation has improved much, but I hope it has."

Additionally, other industry critics complain that P&G is following other companies with multicultural-marketing budget cuts. However, in 2006, P&G identified key brands and, from their combined budgets, allocated a minimum of 13% to the Black consumer segment. That is one of the largest Black consumer budgets that I am aware of.

The bottom line: P&G recognizes that the keys to success in multicultural marketing are the same as those of any successful business venture. The information that I presented here is not new news. It's Marketing 101, common sense for a best practice.
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